Next Thursday We Will Sing

Our Thanksgiving plans are set, and Lord willing, we will have a houseful as we gather in gratitude for all the things the Lord has done. We are not only grateful, we are grateful to the Giver of all of it.

These are dark and dangerous times. Not only is the world as a whole in great turmoil, but so many that we know are going through deep trials of various kinds. Those of us in our family have also faced great difficulty in various ways in the last year. That changes nothing as we gather to say thank you to the One who sustains us all.

I told my sister that when she and her husband, Russ and their four children come, they should bring their musical instruments. Russ and Lisa’s children sing as well as play instruments, and I am printing off song sheets for us all. Even the grandsons, Peter and Max, can play the rhythm instruments and make music.

The first song we will sing is a song written several centuries ago in the middle of a horrific time in history. The simple hymn, Now Thank We All Our God, was not written in an American suburb in a centrally heated home with food in the cupboards and a fully plumbed bath and warm beds. It was written in a time of war, with death and want all around.

Here’s a little glimpse of the environment in which a humble pastor, Martin Rinckart lived:

The plague of 1637 visited Eilenburg with extraordinary severity; the town was overcrowded with fugitives from the country districts where the Swedes had been spreading devastation, and in this one year 8,000 persons died in it. The whole of the town council except three persons, a terrible number of school children, and the clergymen of the neighbouring parish, were all carried off; and Rinckart had to do the work of three men, and did it manfully at the beds of the sick and dying. He buried more than 4,000 persons, but through all his labours he himself remained perfectly well. The pestilence was followed by a famine so extreme that thirty or forty persons might be seen fighting in the streets for a dead cat or crow. Rinckart, with the burgomaster and one other citizen, did what could be done to organize assistance, and gave away everything but the barest rations for his own family, so that his door was surrounded by a crowd of poor starving wretches, who found it their only refuge.

That was the state of things. Here’s more:

After all this suffering came the Swedes once more, and imposed upon the unhappy town a tribute of 30,000 dollars. Rinckart ventured to the camp to entreat the general for mercy, and when it was refused, turned to the citizens who followed him, saying, “Come, my children, we can find no hearing, no mercy with men, let us take refuge with God.” He fell on his knees, and prayed with such touching earnestness that the Swedish general relented, and lowered his demand at last to 2,000 florins. (Source: Martin Rinckart)

In this environment of suffering and want, the pastor wrote a brief hymn of thanks to His heavenly Father. Here are the words.

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Our daughter Emily, age 6, has learned this hymn at school. She will lead us off by singing the first stanza on Thanksgiving Day, and we will all join in the rest, with Tom on trumpet, Will at the piano, and Rachel on Viola and the grandbabes on the rhythm instruments.

In light of the manifold blessings we enjoy every single day, how can we do any less but thank God? If Rev. Rinckart could pen this hymn in the midst of such suffering, what is our excuse for not recognizing God’s blessings?

I hope all of you have a joyful Thanksgiving time, wherever you may be, in whatever you are facing. God has not forgotten you.


The Greatest Fear

“The greatest fear in the world is the opinion of others, and the moment you are unafraid of the crowd, you are no longer a sheep. You become a lion. A great roar arises in your heart. The roar of freedom.”

A friend who is older than I am told me a few months ago that one of the advantages of growing older as a woman was a loss of the crippling fear of the opinion of others. “I don’t know exactly why it is,” she said, “But I used to walk into a room of people and worry about whether they liked me. Now, I ask myself if I like them, and why I am in the room in the first place!”

It’s true. Fundamentalist Christian culture, in a very special way, is infected with the disease of image consciousness. There is no gossip heaven like the “born-agains” (mocking the frauds here, not the real deal.)  A few hairs out of place, baby, and you’ve just earned a place on a black list somewhere! Some even read this blog out of some ungodly need to stalk me and find something that can be used as dirt. I am laughing as I type. (Onward, Christian soldiers, Marching as to war. With our latest targets, bleeding on the floor!)

I saw this meme today, and it nails the problem down.


Those who form negative opinions about our lives, lives that don’t have anything to do with theirs in any way whatsoever, are sad people without adequate productive work to busy themselves. As someone who once was terrorized at the thought of people having false impressions or forming bad opinions of me based on lies, it now has the whiff of comedy about it. Dark comedy, but worthy of a laugh track. Who are these people who have never had the slightest love or concern for me or my family or ever had a personal interaction with us? Who cares what they think?! They are less than nobody to me and my dear loved ones.

What a freeing thing it is when you get out of a closed environment and breathe clean air, and with the clean air, find a surge of strength to speak the truth on your heart. What a freeing thing it is to shut the door on those who taught you how to judge others ruthlessly, to see things with narrow, loveless little eyes. It is true freedom to walk away from those who devalued and discarded you when you were no longer useful to their cause. It is a good thing to see this clearly and understand the cold, hard truth, and then proceed all the wiser.

Some Good News

Everybody has seen the horror on TV of wildfires that clear out entire forests, destroying everything in their path. After the fires are put out, there is a short period of time where all looks wiped out. Completely burned over and dead. But beneath the ruined forest there is life. It takes time, but slowly and surely, nature replaces the dead and the burned over with new life, ironically, fostered in the rich soil created by the fire. This article puts it this way:

But ecologically, fire has its place, and it’s not one of complete destruction. In fact, in ecosystems, fires initiate a process of growth. They destroy and they leave a space, a space that is soon filled with new growth. After the fires, the forest reawakens.

In Colorado Springs, there’s an ecological flip side to the fire. The forests were full of White and Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, and Aspen trees.  This ecology is adapted to the changes that fire brings. It knows what to do.

After a fire, aspen trees grow. Even if the tree itself has been decimated by fire, this fast-growing tree can easily sprout from the roots that have been left behind. The sunny spaces left behind by the fire give life to the new aspen trees. In turn, the trees’ roots hold the soil in place, and their leaves slow down the rainfall, reducing the danger of flash floods.

With the return of the aspen, comes the revival of the slower-growing Ponderosa Pine. This tree loves the sunshine. Its thick bark can protect the tree from small fires, allowing it to thrive in the more open ecology after a fire moves through. If the tree did not survive, new trees will grow in amongst the baby aspens, rebuilding the local ecology from the ground up. (Read more here.)

What is true of forest fires can also be true for people. The consuming fires in our lives seem to destroy everything worthwhile. But God, in his mercy, often allows the fires to remove what needs removing from our lives that something new and healthy can grow. It’s not all destruction. What’s been consumed is what needed consuming. A lot of what we considered good, is sometimes very bad for us, including some people who have harmed us terribly. The beautiful regrowth of things begins, and you realize that much dead wood, much that was unhealthy is now gone. That’s a beautiful thing for those who can see it.

If you’re seeing the flames at the moment, hang on. If you’re patient and don’t give up, God will show you new growth soon, and it will be something new and healthy and vibrant. Don’t give up!


The Three D’s of a Strong Woman

Strong women are a study of mine. What makes them succeed, even in the face of adversity, while others fall apart? We all need to be strong in the various challenges we face.What do strong women have in common?

Earlier today, my sister, Lisa Turner, took First Place, sixth overall, in her age group at the Lake Country Half Marathon. My sister tosses off half marathons and marathons as if they were nothing. But in reality, she prepares intensively for the races. She is a coach to other runners who want training for their own races, and Lisa recently returned from a clinic operated by a former Olympian runner in Colorado who helps coaches train with excellence.

I asked Lisa after the race today what three things she would list as key practices of a successful runner that might apply to the race of life in general. She gave me these three D’s immediately:

Determination – a strong mind that has been trained to overcome ALL the negative thoughts that keep me from giving my best effort.

Discipline – the regular consistent “practice” of asking the body to do what it naturally doesn’t want to do…day after day.

Dependence – trusting the Lord for wisdom in training appropriately, for the ability to maintain determination and discipline , and ultimately, reliance on him for every breath as I run!

These points don’t need much elaboration. Determination, discipline and dependence on God are key in whatever race we run in our lives.

We live in a slovenly, morally lazy age where it’s easier to slouch our way through life, taking the easiest path, avoiding challenges of any kind and hiding when the call goes out for athletes of our Lord. We all need determination to live right in the sight of God with his help, we all need the discipline to throw off the things that hold us back and above all, we need humility to recognize our dependence on our Creator who grants us every breath we take.

Congratulations to my sister and amazing athlete, Lisa. I may not be an athlete, but I have learned much from you!

Here’s my sister in action today, running like the wind.




The Story – Great Is Thy Faithfulness

GreatisthyfaithfulnessThe greatest testimonies of God’s faithfulness that are written in song have come from those in difficult circumstances. How would we know of God’s faithfulness if not pressed far beyond our own strength and resources?

I posted a video today on another site of a hymn arrangement I want my son, Will, the resident organist, to play for me. My friend, Bethany Lewis, responded with a link which shares the beautiful story of how the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness, came to be.

How many millions has this hymn blessed down through the years? The suffering man who penned it could still look to the goodness of God and His loving care in the middle of trouble. If you are suffering today, worried about how to pay bills, struggling with untold and seemingly intolerable burdens, look to the One who has not forgotten you. He is faithful, a loving Father who has engraved you on the palms of his hands. (Isaiah 49:16.)

Here is the link to the hymn story. (Thank you Bethany!) And below is the beautiful hymn played by the young man who is the senior organist at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. The text of the hymn is below the video.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

And All The Souls Within These Walls…

blessingYears ago, I attended a house warming party for some friends who were moving into their first home. They had always rented up until that point, and they were delighted to move their children into a bungalow they had refurbished over the course of many months.

They were a Christian family, and they had asked a pastor friend of theirs to the gathering. It made a deep impression on me as the pastor stood up after the socializing and said a prayer of blessing on the new home. He prayed for the protection of the occupants, for the marriage of the parents and for the growth of the children within those walls. It was almost 30 years ago, but I remember that beautiful prayer very clearly.

We have not had a house warming party, yet, anyway, for our new home. We are still in the lengthy process of settling in. But the very first day the home was ours, we received a card from my dear sister-in-law and her husband, Mike. The words were a simple but profound blessing on our home.

I want to share Kris’s words to us with you. Words can wound and kill a spirit. They can destroy. But words can also give life, strength, hope and joy. With our words, we can literally bless those around us. Thank you, Kris and Mike, for this blessing on our home. True family is a beautiful thing.


“Thus far the LORD has Helped Us”

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” I Samuel 7:12

These are beautiful words from the prophet Samuel in the Old Testament.  Whether people lived thousands of years ago or today, our human needs are the same. The guiding and preserving hand of the LORD in our lives is essential, and what a joy to have an Ebenezer in our own lives, marking the fact that “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”

mygarden“I was about to fall,” David wrote in the Psalms, “but the LORD helped me.”  We were despairing, and God lifted up our heads. In the midst of so much ugliness, God has set a table before us in the presence of our enemies and has given us beauty for ashes. His love has rained on us through the love of others so many times in the last few years. His hand, even when it didn’t seem to be there, has continually led us and continues to lead. We are grateful for that kindly light in the gloom of this world.

When we live by faith, God takes the broken glass of our lives and builds a stained glass window, a unique mosaic built from all the shattered pieces. The glass is illuminated by the Light of his presence, and no earthly hand can make such a design.

Our family has seen and experienced the mercies of the Lord and help in time of need.  This spring and summer have been times of change for us, and these changes are a blessing. I have never been busier, working as a producer for a national radio show, having the privilege of scheduling excellent guests and news makers and assisting an able and experienced radio host. I haven’t enjoyed myself this much in a long time! (Meeting up with my old publicist friends has been fun. One said, “Ingrid, we worked together for 20 years. Welcome back!)

We are settling into our new home. Last weekend, I spent four hours sorting and putting all my books on the various bookshelves. It isn’t home until I have Spurgeon and B.B. Warfield on the shelves. I also unpacked a little mini-library of light novels from the early 20’s and 30’s that I have saved for our little daughter, Emily. These gems are disappearing from library shelves as the new books come in, and some authors can’t even be found anymore, sadly. But I have a small trove of treasures for Emily if she loves to read like I did when I was a girl. I also have two shelves of classic literature that spans childhood, so our daughter will have a rainy day library of the best books for children.

These are the best and worst of times. The best part of these times is that we can vividly watch the spiritual battle underway that Holy Scripture clearly describes. God’s Word is being proved true again and again in every headline you read. There is no neutrality in these times, no middle ground between good and evil, between life and death. Life and family are cheap in this world that rejects God and His goodness. But we have a glorious hope for a future where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and where we will know joy forever more. In the mean time, as the poet put it, “God stands within the shadows, keeping watch over his own.”

Much Too High a Price

My brother-in-law Russ recorded this beautiful song with his wife Lisa on the piano.

Your love endured the cross
Despising all the shame
That afternoon when midnight fell
Your suffering cleared my name
And that sin-swept hill became
The open door to paradise
Because you paid so high a price

You paid much too high a price for me
Your tears, your blood, the pain
To have my soul just stirred at times
Yet never truly changed
You deserve a fiery love
That won’t ignore your sacrifice
Because you paid much too high a price

Your grace inspires my heart
To rise above the sin
And all the earthly vanity
That seeks to draw me in
I want to tell this jaded world of love
That truly saved my life
A love that paid
So high a price